Culture Change e-Letter
parking than ever?
The David Brower Memorial
Parking Garage is on a head of steam (a greenhouse gas)
by Jan Lundberg
"Start your engines for
Dave and the Earth!"?
There is so much wrong with what the city of
Berkeley, California, the late David Brower's home town, is doingand what his
"heirs" are doingin his name, that one gets bogged down in details, arguments, the workings of
construction, technology, property and politics. However, the basic
difference between the perpetrators/beneficiaries of the project and those that
object to the perpetuation of car dependence and paving is a spiritual difference.
Dave Brower was deeply connected with the
Earth. We are all deeply connected to the Earth and the universe, but in
the present dominant culture almost every
one of us continues to act separately and in isolation for short-term gain.
reporting on this story last spring, and seeing little action on the surface since, the
great push is suddenly on to build the David Brower Center with even more parking, possibly, than we knew then.
Up to 246 parking stalls could go in, almost doubling the 132 spaces already
on an unsightly lot that brings car-filth and danger to downtown Berkeley.
The present site could instead be easily turned into an organic permaculture garden to feed people and allow species diversity, which we all know Dave would have vastly preferred to the mostly lifeless building/car
complex as planned. So, as the new year
gets into gear (ahem), once again some of us are objecting to the accommodating
of cars as if they are a priority at what is supposed to be a
preeminent environmentalist building.
David Brower Epicenter
The building could turn out to be nice looking, relatively
speaking, from the drawings, but as Jim Doherty says (Culture Change's Bike
Blogger), "the building would crowd the sidewalks." What's more,
he reminds us, it could be all too near Strawberry Creek (probably sacred to
David Brower), and the
building would also be right near a
serious earthquake fault under the adjacent stadium. Hence, Jim calls the proposed complex "the
David Brower Epicenter." Many cars with their gas tanks under a
building in an earthquake is not the most comforting image. When a
building several stories high rests upon a parking garage, especially if it is a
two-level garage, structural integrity is grossly compromised.
From the architect's website:
"Named after the Sierra Clubs founder
[sic] , David Brower, the project houses 90 apartments, arts space, a
restaurant, underground parking [and above ground parking - ed.], and 50,000
square feet of
office and educational space for environmental non-profits. A dramatic public
rotunda provides daylight and natural ventilation for the various commercial
uses. The proposed platinum LEED rating is based on environmental technologies
and architectural elements related to siting, daylighting, natural ventilation,
structure, photovoltaic power generation, and solar hot water." - Solomon
Greener areas above are University of California
campus. Area outlined in red is the present parking lot that the city
wants to allow development on, as long as the Brower Center continues to
accommodate cars and produce parking revenue.
Is PVC (=dioxin, lead, and more)
"green?" Will the Brower Center be PVC free?
must question the green-ness of this building, if it is not going to surpass the
vaunted LEED system. "The real consequences of human chemical
exposures are [not] valued by the US green building movement as it debates a
PVC-related materials credit for the US Green Building Council's LEED green
building rating system." - Bill Walsh, National Coordinator of the Healthy
Building Network. A Culture Change reader affiliated with the
American Institute of Architects advises us in a follow up on the PVC question:
"The US Green Building Council has
caved in to industry and refuses to offer credit for PVC elimination as part of
LEED building evaluation system. The prestigious and increasingly popular
LEED cetification gives architecture the "green" stamp of approval.
San Francisco has recently adopted LEED criteria for its civic buildings...
I agree with your assessment of the parking situation for the Brower Center in
The main players for the David Brower Center's
completion include Brower's last major group, the Earth Island Institute, the
Center for Ecoliteracy (can they define "car domination"?), nonprofit groups
such as Rainforest Action Network and International Rivers Network getting office space,
businesses such as Patagonia getting prime retail space,
and various individuals and departments in city government and in the
True enough, rents are
ridiculously high in the San Francisco Bay area, and nonprofit groups need
affordable space that the Brower Center can offer. Likewise, the
"affordable housing" component of the complex is to many an enticing
part of the proposal. However, car-free poor people abound and would love
to live there without a car, using the nearby subway and the buses as well as
their feet. And nonprofit environmental groups could surely forego parking
along with, one would hope, their cars.
The public has gotten in January
2005 its first glimpses of plans for the building and paving. The city's
Design Review Committee basically tossed back not even softballs but effusive
praise for the plan, at its hearing on Jan. 20 where the architect held court for
the friendly Committee. A Berkeley Daily Planet report on the
hearing dated Jan. 25th was merely a rundown on the praise, and was devoid of
any criticism or concern that was voiced at the hearing.
For the Design Review Committee's
consideration I asked on January 22 that the Committee's staffer and the city clerk forward the following
message of additional official comment to the Committee chairman, all
the other Committee members, and staffers:
Mr. Clerk, I provided the following
comments verbally on January 20 at the North Berkeley Senior Center regarding
the David Brower Center proposal. I preface it here with a first
paragraph informing the Design Review Committee and the public about the
realities of traffic generation; I was not able to fit it into the two minutes
time allowed at the hearing. - Thank you in advance, Jan Lundberg
Comments of Jan Lundberg, Culture
When European cities go about
reducing motor vehicle traffic in downtown areas, to create
pedestrian-friendly zones and improve economic vitality, they do not simply
cut off a number of central city blocks to cars. Car-free sections are easily
created and they prove popular, but to reduce the number of cars approaching the
car-free areas, and to create quasi-friendly pedestrian zones that are not
car-free, the government additionally raises parking fees, decreases parking
places, and institutes traffic calming -- which Berkeley has partially
implemented. Disaccommodating the car has been proven necessary in Europe to
reduce congestion. This works not just in Europe, but in the U.S. another
method of reducing congestion was discovered to be lane removal: a lane is freed up for
non-car travel. Studies from even the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit
District showed that the remaining lanes, after a lane was taken away from car
travel, were less congested with cars. This lesson from Europe and Los Angeles
should be heeded by the city of Berkeley. The obvious meaning of this reality
is that any parking for the David Brower Center simply adds to the problems of
congestion, pollution, oil dependence, noise, and lack of safety. To approve a
large building that features parking the way the David Brower Center does
unconscionable, unscientific, unjust, obsolete, and inconsistent with modern
planning. The color of parking lot walls are of no legitimate concern.
[The following is the gist of Jan
Lundberg's comments given verbally]
"I have been moving to Berkeley
since I testified before city council on this matter last spring and published
an op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle on the David Brower Center's planned
"The David Brower Center has
good goals, and the building itself is admirably designed, but a success
would have to be seen only as a qualified one and a compromise. The Brower
Center fails regarding the car factor.
"Accommodating cars as a
priority is not consistent with sustainability or David Brower's true vision.
He was an Advisor [and active supporter] of the Alliance for a Paving Moratorium which not only
opposed no new parking lots but advocated some depaving as well.
"One of the most important
activities your Committee ever does is to determine motor-vehicle traffic
volume and thus pollution, and energy security. Additionally, when cement and
concrete manufacture produce so much greenhouse gas, it is vital to make sound
choices in large developments, especially when it is not known if one or
underground parking garages would be built.
"I therefore urge a redesign to
deal with the problems posed by accommodating cars. Richard Register, of the
group Ecocity Builders which took the mayor of Berkeley to San Luis Obispo to
view the downtown open creek, informs us that his suggestions for design of
the complex at the outset, were ignored, so he urges a redesign as well.
like many in the community, is against developments that cater to car and oil
[Given more than two minutes, (Mr.
Chairman), I would
have added also (1):
"If you wish background on
petroleum and climate issues, which the Brower Center entails, I would be
happy to provide information based on my 14 years serving the oil industries
and government before my nonprofit employment."]
only other person from the public to address concerns about cars and pavement
at the aforementioned hearing was Jason Meggs, the bicycle activist of
Berkeley, who pointed out that his suggestions for reducing street area around
the complex were ignored. Meggs also reminded the Committee and the many
present backers among the public who stand to gain socially from
the completion of the Brower Center that "the city's general plan does
allow car-free development." His comments, along with mine, were ignored
by the Committee members and the many professional environmentalists present who want the
complex built as proposed. Fortunately, the decision rests with the public,
ultimately, up until the city council may rubber-stamp this not very
progressive building in terms of transportation-related land use, energy and
Respectfully submitted by
email jan at culturechange.org
www.culturechange.org - see Culture Change Letter #63
tel. (215) 243-3144
support Culture Change's activist journalism and other projects, please make a
Berkeley Daily Planet letter
to editor on David Brower Center
reader feedback on the above article on the Dave Brower Center, please visit
and feel free to send in your comments on any Culture Change Letters for us to
Culture Change Letter #63 on the David Brower
Memorial Parking Garage
shorter version of that Culture Change article was printed in the San Francisco
Chronicle on June 2, 2004, and can be viewed at the Chron's
comment to the City of Berkeley (email: email@example.com,
fax (510) 981-6901) and tell the Council
Members that, for example, you would more likely visit a David Brower Center and
the fair city of Berkeley if they did not represent the same old oil, fumes
& road hog paradigm.
green city/building design expertise see www.ecocitybuilders.org
of Oakland and Berkeley, California - Richard Register, President, author and
illustrator. Read his recent response to the public debate over the David
Brower Center, Design
flaws of David Brower Center plan
Building Network and its campaign against PVC
Lundberg publishes Culture Change, nonprofit, which was founded upon his petroleum
industry experience at Lundberg Survey Corporation which served industry,
government and news media.
BROWER CENTER COVERAGE
To: Editors, Daily Planet (published January 28, 2005):
Your coverage of the proposed David Brower Centers praise by Berkeleys
Design Review Committee omitted criticism delivered at the same hearing that
your reporter may have attended. One reason for this omission may have been the
odd impression your reporter hador he has a brilliant sense of humorin
your Jan. 25-27 edition: No parking is planned for the Brower Center, in
keeping with the organizations pro-bike and mass transit agenda.
Wow, I love that! If only it were true. Its more like, Enviros, start
your engines! The amount of parking on the site could almost double, from 132
spaces at present. On the architects website as of Jan. 26, the claim was
that only underground parking would be available, but the plan is for above
ground pollutionmobiles to be accommodated as well. The architects website
also had David Brower down as the founder of the Sierra Club, which the
Club was amused by when I visited yesterday at its headquarters for an all-day
session of the Campaign Against the Plastic Plague. Perhaps one of the lead
nonprofits in the David Brower Memorial Parking Garage scheme, the Center
for Ecoliteracy, could educate the architect as to who the hell John Muir was.
Planet readers can see a full report on the Brower Center and the criticisms,
with some nice pictures of Dave himself, at the culturechange.org website (top
of homepage). The report was sent out this week to over ten thousand subscribers
of the Culture Change Letter, and the feedback has been emotional, such as from
the architecture review editor of The Nation magazine, Jane Holtz Kay: This
is @#$%^&*() unbelievable. I will have to put it in my global warming book,
or something. It sounds like your basic Let all ye who enter here be
damned. Mark Robinowitz, of Oilempire.us, wrote in: The irony is
Wait, perhaps your reporter has a crystal ball about the no parking,
and the city and the establishment environmental groups will soon see the light.
More and more of us are crying out: Change this plan regarding designing a
future for more global warming, oil wars and car injuries/fatalities, and
instead honor David Brower as we all know he should be honored!
Publisher, Culture Change